In response to the recent conversation about Syria, Pope Francis has proclaimed Saturday, September 7th as a day of fasting and prayer for peace. The Holy Father has also made a number of statements expressing his concern over the use of chemical weapons and also reminding us that it is our responsibility as Christians to find peaceful ways to resolve conflicts whenever possible. While we don’t expect children to understand the complexities of issues like chemical weapons, international law and military intervention in conflicts in other nations, current events provide an opportunity to dialogue with them about Catholic teaching on war and conflict resolution.
"War never again! Never again war!" Pope Francis posted these words to his account on Twitter in the midst of the debate concerning Syria. While there might sometimes be just reasons for considering military intervention, our primary goal should always be to find peaceful means of resolving conflicts. The pope also sent the following message: “"We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace." In talking with our children, let us reflect on what it means to be people of peace in our own daily lives. Here are some questions for reflection with children:
• Do I pray for my enemies, as Jesus told us to do?
• When I have a disagreement with someone, do I look for ways to make it better?
• Do I stop to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help me choose how to work things out peacefully?
• Do I take time to calm myself down so I can make a good (and prudent) decision?
• Do I talk things through and avoid physical violence?
Being a people of peace can sometimes be counter-cultural. To be peaceful people means “going against the flow.” Pope Francis says, “"We want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out!" Le us all resolve, on this worldwide day of prayer and fasting, to “let peace break out” in our families, our schools, and communities. Let us all say together, “Let it begin with me.”